How to be a friend to someone who might be in an abusive relationship.

October is #domesticviolenceawareness month. Chances are, you know more people in situations like this than you think. If you want to be a friend to someone you think may be smiling only on the outside, here are some insights:
*If you are in an abusive situation yourself, and reading this, send it to someone you trust.
  1. Don’t expect 20/20 vision from the victim, they are way more used to hiding it than talking about it. Way more used to denying it and brushing it under the rug than facing it for what it is. They will blame themselves, deny, minimize, and become completely desensitized to it from doing it so often. They may not even be willing to or want to see it.
  2. Tap experts –  There are some great and experienced resources to access by phone, for advice and support: national abuse hotline will always take your call and they have loads of valuable training and experience – TOLL-FREE 1.866.863.0511
  3. Go beyond the stereotypes – Physical violence is usually the exception or the late-coming form of abuse, but is also the most socially agreed upon form of abuse. No bruises means some people won’t consider it ‘real abuse’. Verbal and psychological abuse are harder to identify, start earlier in the relationship, and tend to be misunderstood because they don’t leave a mark. But they do cause psychological impairment and physiological distress.
  4. Be open and honest, but don’t expect them to be open and honest Abusive situations put victims in “Fight or flight” – making survivors oversensitive and likely to withdraw. It actually makes it harder for these women to LEAN on friends, EXPRESS what’s going on, or SEEK out people to trust for support. This self-perpetuating cycle leaves them alone and desperate more often than they’ll ever admit.
  5. Be Patient Separation/exit from these situations is extremely difficult. Heightened emotions, raised stakes, and losing love, stability, and family are all a part of what will be lost along with the abuse. It’s worth it, but it’s needs to get to a breaking point. 
  6. Counter-act the blame game – Victims will almost always believe the abuse or the situation is somewhat or fully their fault. Most are made to feel that way. Tell them it’s not. See it clearly for them. After my situation I made a list of 10 things that were the opposite of what he told me I was. I still look at that list. 
  7. Understand that it’s not black and white. Victims often still love their abuser and will hope beyond hope that it ‘goes away.’ They hope this last time was the very last time. Leaving, and the fight ahead, takes a degree of inner strength and resolve that abuse victims gave up a long time ago. They need to regain that strength before making a change. 
  8. Throw logic out, work on building back their reality, confidence, and inner strength – Abuse isn’t rational. It’s explosive, disproportionate, and non-sensical. Verbal abuse and harassment is confusing and embarrassing. You can’t use logic to fix it or to fight it. Yet most victims and ‘normal people’ will naturally try to rationalize either the behavior or what to do about it. It won’t work. 
  9. Expect problematic behaviors, from here on in – Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common side effect of battered woman syndrome, meaning that the relationship causes shock and trauma to the brain enough to impair or reduce cognitive function. This is why recovery may include: relapse, paralysis, poor judgement, difficulty making decisions – ongoing.
  10. Trust your instincts, and be clear about right from wrong  – Women in this situation are TRAINED to smile through it, brush it off, minimize it. If you see clearly that someone you love (or yourself) is being abused, mistreated, repeatedly disrespected – and that person is suffering – the best thing you can do is be a supportive, forgiving, understanding, and well-informed ally. 
 
This list was compiled from research and experience. Yes, I am a survivor.
What I wish for others in situations this is that they not be judged, that they have friends to lean on even when they are weak and useless and messy and confused and acting oddly and not making sense. 
Being aware of all of the above can help you be a source of strength. 
 
An abusive relationship chips away at your heart and soul. You feel empty, desperate, confused, and alone. 
Help her heal and rebuild on the inside – and possibly, find the strength to leave.
 
Help her combat and cut off from the abuse mentally first, by learning that real love shouldn’t hurt.
Help her build back the resources she’ll need for the difficult road ahead of creating a new life. 
Help her by not turning away. 
Advertisements

Loss sucks. Dreams count. (but my mind didn’t get the memo)

I find myself thinking of it first thing in the morning, like my mind, half-asleep, has found this pain and needs to pick at it obsessively.

The dear friends I lost in the divorce. And the worst part – I lost them because they didn’t believe me or even want to hear my side of it.

The massive financial hit we took for selling the house too soon.

The massive costs – physically and mentally – of court.

I know that every one of us has regrets. It just seems that the bigger regrets – the ones that I incurred over the past 10 years – the regrets that seem to be life-changing events.

Do you find yourself in the same boat? Going over losses and hurts like a cat obsessively licking its fur??? Ouch, ouch, ouch, fuck, fuck, fuck….. it’s a terrible feeling, and I wish I could get past it. Isn’t it key that we focus on the present and future? Everybody has regrets. But who among us still has vibrant, exciting, scintillating, life-affirming…. D R E A M S……..that could still become realities.

What’s your dream? I have given up on so many of mine… but how about if I lay them out here and you’ll tell me yours? Might as well get it down on paper.

Dream one: publish my novel. Or a screenplay. Or at least an article or story every now and then!

Dream two: Cooking classes in Italy.  (a little pricey! But possible.)

Dream three: Scuba Dive (completed in-pool portion already, halfway there)

Dream four: A home that’s all set for hosting. And charcuterie platters at the ready. (almost there).

Dream five: I’d like a promotion.

Maybe these are all attainable……. funny, I thought I wanted to buy another house, but it didn’t actually make the list.

Tell me your dreams, friends… it feels so much better than regrets and feeling like your whole life went down the tubes.

We. Are. Alive. Anything is possible.

XO

signs of an emotionally abusive relationship

  1. You’re googling Signs of an Emotionally Abusive Relationship and all of it’s variations. Because you’re lost and confused and don’t really know where to turn next.
  2. You’re constantly hoping it’s the last time. It never is.
  3. Everything is your fault. You’ve caused this state of affairs.
  4. Unpredictable anger – unpredictable expressions of big emotions altogether.
  5. Name calling
  6. Intention to hurt, with little or no remorse
  7. “I hate you, don’t leave me” attitude that makes no sense
  8. A desire in yourself to moderate your own behavior in the hopes of moderating theirs
  9. Denial. Of your reality. Constant confusion.
  10. Still wanting to hold on to the good parts. Hoping it will change. Losing hope.

As I write this, I am approaching the two year mark since separating from an abusive ex. The road is complicated, but worth every second, every step, every battle, every breath. I have never felt more happy or more alive in my life.

Life, Part 2 – After the marriage

Hello, old friends. Long time! I’ve missed you… while I’ve been busy finding me ; )

As I write this, I’m sitting in the most beautiful room that ever was, feeling the most peaceful I have ever felt, because it is mine – As Virginia Woolf famously called it, ‘A Room of One’s Own,’ – I have my own place, with my daughter. We’ve settled it, and it is absolutely amazing….

J and I separated 8 months ago. It’s strange to think there was a time when I couldn’t imagine life without him, when now all I remember is the abuse.

In June it will be official – and I am so very ok with June coming.

Sometimes I think I’ve found a nice memory – like the special tea he used to make me when I was sick, or the amazing vacations we took to Cuba, Paris, Mexico. But no sooner have I thought about the nice thing and the bad part comes rushing in with it. The way he yelled at me for not appreciating the tea, or the way he treated me during his fits on every one of those vacations….. Horribly. Even on the Honeymoon and ‘babymoon.’

I’ve thought about the many women (and men) who suffer verbal abuse for years and years with no escape and no name for it. I want to do something about it, but not sure what I could do. It’s such a slippery little topic. So hard to define. And the attitudes you face: Did he hit you though? No… So it’s not ‘actual’ abuse then….

Ok.

Patricia Evans’ definition set me free last summer, while I was recovering: Verbal abuse is a lie told to you about you.

Yep. You are not any of those horrible names/descriptors. And how liberating to be free of those lies.

Back then, and for many months before that, I was blogging pretty regularly. I was going through a huge change from not drinking alcohol and kind of rediscovering myself.  But for the past 8 months – barely a word huh?! I hope you are all doing well on your amazing journeys.

I’m quite happy to report that I am dating an old friend turned new flame… somebody who always liked me and I always liked but we were never single at the same time. It’s a total breath of fresh air… and while I am not moving fast I am enjoying it so incredibly much. This delicious new love.

I know that many of the bloggers I read are quite religious. I am not, but am spiritual… and I just have to say… I am so positively sure that God has been watching over me, and I am so grateful for the guiding light that has led me through all this insanity, into the beauty of a healthy new life.

XOX

 

No way Jose 

I saw him.

I felt fine for a while.

Then I felt like the rug was pulled out from under my progress.

I felt sticky and slimed.

By a slimeball who has no respect for me.

No way Jose.

YOU DON’T TREAT ME WITH RESPECT YOU GET NO PLACE IN MY LIFE.

Thriving through separation and divorce. WTF?

75 DAYS SINCE… You know.

*I am kind of shocked at how well I’m doing and how good I’m feeling and I have a suspicion that separation and divorce is not this pleasant for people who have not been living with abuse. So take this with a grain of salt, anyone reading who has lost their best friend through a broken marriage. I did not really lost my best friend…. but I did lose my worst enemy. 

Right now I’m eating a juicy giant yellow heirloom tomato and enjoying every bite. More than I’ve enjoyed food in years.

Today I built a bird house with my daughter. 

Last week I baked my first pie (it was pretty darn good!) 

Also had a huge milestone at work with an eight month long project coming to fruition, and achieving buy-in from all the very-high-ups.

To top it all off, I’m running and losing a lot of weight. I run minimum twice a week, religiously, for at least 30 minutes, and I’ve entered into a race for charity next Saturday!!

I could tell you about the hard times, the relapses in emotion, the morning anxiety (it’s much better now) — but all that is par for the courses. What’s remarkable is how freakin’ good I”m feeling.

I hope all you fellow bloggers are feeling good too. Even though I’m not writing much these days, I am still so grateful for your support and encouragement through this process. I don’t think I would have been this brave without you. HUGS to you and our virtual friendships!

Here is a list of things that have helped me not just survive but Thrive during this time:

  1. I MOW THE LAWN WITH A SELF-HELP BOOK ON THE iPOD First of all, who knew that a lady could mow a lawn? As you may recall from my former state of dependency, I wasn’t always so self-reliant. But nowadays, every Sunday I take the ol’ mower out of the garage and let ‘er rip. I put my headphones in and let sun beat down on me while I trod along, mow, mow, mow. And since we have a pretty big backyard, by the end of this process I feel nicely tired out, refreshed mentally because of what I’ve been listening to, and generally much better than however I did before. Highly recommend!
  2. I RUN, AND ADD ONE NEW SONG TO MY RUN PLAYLIST EVERY TIME The drastic changes in me from June until now have meant that my playlist is everything from Rage against the Machine to Olivia Newton John to Sia! With some Led Zep mixed in there. And some weird 80’s anthems in there too. HA! But this playlist has come to be a living songbook for my process of grieving, growing, and giving life my all again. I look forward to every run.
  3. I’M LEARNING HOW TO STAY IN THE MOMENT I read (actually listened to) a great book called 10% Happier (a funny skeptical take on meditation and self help) and have also been listening to Pema Chodron’s talk called Getting Unstuck and both of these books have helped me gently resist my own temptation to think about the terror and catastrophe side of what I have been through and could go through. It’s not naive, it’s just practical – to focus on today. Not the terrifying future. Not the unchangeable past. I guess it’s a part of surrender, and a part of trusting. Let Go and Let God. It feels so much better.
  4. I”M MAKING ACQUAINTANCES If I had been through this a few years ago, or any other time in my life, I would have been crying on shoulders, and drowning my sorrows on my next victim, I guarantee it. I have been a serial monogamist. Even in school when I wasn’t with a guy, my best girl friend and I were completely and monogamously joined at the hip. I have never been one to stand on my own two feet – until now. This fall, I am looking forward to making casual friends with the moms at my daughters dance classes or the people who I run alongside in my race. I want to make new friends the old fashion way. Instead of having one person in my life who I am completely ‘one’ with – I want to be one with ME!!! And have lots of people around who know and like me for me. Sounds pretty normal, probably, but it’s new for me.
  5. I’M TRYING NEW THINGS, AND SO EXCITED ABOUT IT! Where have I been all my life, seriously? This marriage, and life on the other side of it has been the biggest wake up call. I want to ski and swim and play guitar and sail and bake more pies and take road trips and learn to salsa and do 10,000 other things that I couldn’t have cared less about before. Because I was an addict. A trapped, programmed, miserable human, looking for happiness in wine glasses, packs of cigarettes and handsome blue eyes. Fuck that. Know what? Life is so many million times better after smoking, drinking and boys. And I am so grateful that I am young enough to still build a wonderful life. Yes ME.

LA VIE EST BELLE. LIFE IS FOR THE LIVING. LOVE TO ALL.

10 Telltale signs of (my) Abusive Marriage

This is one of those “don’t forget, don’t look back” posts… to remind myself, and others. There will be a follow up post to this that is brimming with positivity and corrective measures, I promise!! Right now I’m just feeling the need to recount… in order to heal from it.

It was probably about a month ago, maybe more, that I left the house in tears, desperate crazy flowing tears, to drive myself off a cliff, or into a wall, or into the lake…. (I didn’t, obviously, but that feeling was getting all too familiar.)

I was constantly feeling so trapped, so miserable, so hurt, so brutalized, so assassinated – that I was losing my will to live. J would be raging, and usually have brought or daughter into it somehow so that is was them vs. me (in his mind). I thought if I exited, she might be saved, because I was the problem.

A while before that, probably a few months, I had brought a belt down to the basement and tried to figure out how to hang myself.

Thankfully, I couldn’t figure it out, but that re-enforced my feeling of being a total and complete failure, as he told me many times that I was. I was a worthless piece of shit. Couldn’t even figure out how to off myself. He’d even have to figure that out for me……. I was that useless. 

As I look back on it, I wonder what was it about the situation that made me want to die? Not leave town (couldn’t, daughter), not drink (been there done that), not run to the arms of another man (no thank you). I wanted desperately to die. To kill the pain. It was the result of MANY, MANY red flags compounded and ignored over the years.

———— Brutal! And guys, let me just temper this with a little character explanation….  I have never been a suicidal person AT ALL. There was this one time in high school that I slept with my window open in winter because I was so upset about something I just hoped the winter wind would ‘take me’ — LOL — that was as close as I had ever come to feeling suicidal. *comic relief?? takes deep breath*

So how on earth, many years later, did I end up with a man who valued me so little, and de-valued me so actively that I wanted to kill myself?

I know that people who have been in marriages like mine will identify with that feeling of losing themselves…. it’s the slow transformation from reality as you knew it to this other state – almost constant bewilderment and confusion. Self-doubt. An utterly crumpled sense of self – and a vague memory of who you used to be – or thought you were.

I felt crippled, up until a few weeks ago. When he was taken away.

I’m still working through how I got to that terrible place. And I’ve only had one therapy session which is about 24 shy of how many I probably need right now!!!

But my early sense of it is this – and please let it be a warning to anyone in a similar position. It is a mix of things that I did and he did, resulting in a terrible, terrible state of affairs:

10 Telltale sign of (my) Abusive Marriage

1. He called me names like useless, selfish, black hole, and regularly reminded me what a worthless person I was. He openly disregarded my feelings, including when I lost a close family member last year. He would say things like “poor you” to mock how I felt. RED FLAG

2. I allowed huge violations of myself by apologizing, rationalizing, placating, forgetting, absolving, and otherwise loving him after treating me like garbage.

3. He demonstrated no remorse for having hurt me, ever.

4. I did not stand up for things that were a part of me; friendships, music, movies, experiences.

5. He made no effort to improve himself or the relationship, but actively complained about me and my character. For years. Our old therapist called his behaviour ‘constructive dismissal’ – a form of termination by hostility. 

6. I ignored my own instincts in favour of excuses. He was stressed, he was depressed…. it would get better….

7. He escalated fights in his own mind, and would come back to things after a rest angrier. Sometimes months and years later, he would still be able to jump right in to previous fights with no sign of calming/forgiving/forgetting…. If a topic came up in a restaurant, he would yell at me in the restaurant. It happened many times.

8. I used deflection and defence instead of assertiveness, most of the time. My poor attempts to say ‘not ok’ fell on deaf, angry ears.

9. He was consistently attracted to me and loyal to me, but not respectful of me. Major mind fuckage territory.

10. I regularly felt suicidal. Because together, with my permission and his behaviour, we were complicit in the slow and purposeful assassination of me. Myself and my soul. And PEOPLE – anyone still suffering – there is nobody in the whole wide world who can stop that but you. You are yours, and you are the only steward of your own ship. Steer it well. Take care. There is life after toxic love. Real life, real love….. shouldn’t hurt at all, nevermind hurt so bad you want to die.